By. Bradley Ferguson, student at Mainland Regional High School, Linwood, New Jersey


Partnership. Teamwork. Dedication. Determination. With these ingredients, my school and community have cooked up a rich educational experience for students, and provided a foundation for them to become productive global citizens. Four years ago, our county – Atlantic County, New Jersey – suffered a great economic crisis with five of its twelve casinos closing. Since then, our community has suffered greatly with its unemployment rate well above the national average and its mortgage foreclosure rate as America’s highest. As a seventh grader, I personally saw a need to help, but had no idea how to begin. Luckily, I had great support from my teachers and community members. I met with my American Legion Post 295 Commander and teachers and developed an idea for a team of students, teachers, and community members called “Post Crashers.”


Post Crashers is a service-learning club of over 150 students from grades 7-12. Now entering its 4th year, Post Crashers honors veterans, combats poverty, and addresses food security, nutrition, and agriculture. Our goal is to improve the lives of community members by providing fresh produce, lunches, and meals to those in need, and making Post 295 a place that distributes information on available services to homeless and insecure veterans. Post Crashers exists because of the partnership established between student volunteers, teachers, school administrators, and community members. We have developed a year-long plan of service activities at Post 295’s garden, making lunches and meals for veterans, and planning and planting trees and shrubs at our veteran’s park. In our model, we have truly created a team where students learn a great deal about science and service, all while gaining the trust of community members and school leaders.


Since its founding, Post Crashers has created a large, sustainable victory garden of 30 raised beds at American Legion Post 295 that has yielded 3,000lbs of produce for those in need. I have written successful grant applications that have netted over $140,000 for Mainland Regional High School (MRHS), Northfield Community School (NCS), and Post 295. Grant funds have been used to enhance the schools’ greenhouses and gardens; build a greenhouse at Post 295; make more than 5,000 lunches for those in need (including homeless veterans); prepare meals in a bag for the 50 homeless veterans living in 10 transitional houses in Atlantic City; host veteran advocacy dinners at Post 295; host assemblies at NCS; and completely renovate Post 295.


credit: Dr. Carol Ferguson


Post 295 not only serves as a meeting place for our community’s veterans, but as a community center for everyone in Northfield, New Jersey and the surrounding area, and a learning lab for students at NCS and MRHS. Post Crashers has partnered with NCS and MRHS to create a “green” education program that enhances the high school’s food ecology class and the middle school’s science classes through authentic gardening experiences, such as creating seedlings, building raised beds, harvesting, and cooking healthy meals. These real-life experiences enrich our schools’ STEM programs and demonstrate how students can live a healthy and environmentally sound lifestyle. Students examine the impact of food on human health, the science of botany, organic agriculture, composting, soil structure, the locavore movement, and the food habits of the U.S. consumer. They improve math skills through planning the garden’s square footage and number of starter plants, building the raised beds (measurements, computation), composting (homogeneous/heterogeneous mixtures), crop rotation (time, scheduling), and crop yields (predictions, computation). Additional authentic experiences include seedling preparation and raised bed organic farming, using natural fertilizer (worm poop, composting), and natural pesticides (lady bugs).


Post Crashers has also afforded students an opportunity to learn how to maintain an efficient micro farm as a supplementary fresh food source. Students learn about food insecurity and that 1 in 5 of their peers live in hunger. They then learn how the local food bank operates and serves Atlantic County. They appreciate the role of community in providing fresh and healthy food choices, especially to those in need. Finally, students gain respect for and interest in their school environment, nature, and natural resource management and understand the concept of sustainability as it relates to food, and as a principle of citizenship and community.


Creating this model of partnership only works when school administrators and teachers listen to and support their students. I know that this is rare, but it is certainly replicable. If I can do it as a 13-year-old (now 16) with a simple determination to help, so can anyone – with a supporting team of school and community champions.


Bradley Ferguson is an 11th grade student at Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, New Jersey. In 2014, he started a service-learning club called Post Crashers that now has around 150 members. Post Crashers advocates for and serves veterans and those who are hungry and homeless. Bradley has raised over $140,000 in grants to support the club’s projects. He is a 2017 National Prudential Spirit of Community Award winner, the 2017 President’s Honor Award winner from TD Bank’s Young Heroes Awards, and a 2017 Power of Children’s Award winner. He is a member of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots National Youth Leadership Council.